Death and photography

Today I feel stuck. Too many things in my head buzzing like houseflies in unpredictable arcs. Thoughts impossible to catch. I'm overwhelmed and I don't yet know how to move forward.

I still don't feel like I've found a groove with my schedule. My wife has to be at work by 6:30am three days a week, which means I'm hanging out with the baby those mornings. She's an adorable little chaos machine and very nearly crawling. But there are stretches of days where my wife and I are merely living in parallel.

I haven't received much signal from the two app directions I posted last week. I tweeted them on a Twitter poll and got a depressing three votes. Kind of meta really—social media is not a place for measured thoughtfulness. I got excited by Sloane's suggestion to do a IRL feedback happy hour, but I haven't been able to pull it together. I thought maybe I should just stand outside Adorama for a couple of hours and bug people for five minutes of their time. I might actually do it.

My cousin died last week. We weren't close and I hadn't seen him in years. That makes three people I knew who left the world unexpectedly in the last few months. Poof.

Tel Aviv Beach Sunset
Tel Aviv 2017 — Canon 5D mIV 50mm

I'm almost finished with Susan Sontag's On Photography and it has truly bummed me out. It's the most thoughtful thing on photography I've ever read, but she comes across like an impossibly cool hipster who is all-too-eager to dazzle with their knowledge of French New Wave or some other shibboleth that real people with real jobs are too busy and too dull to know anything about. When you dissect a thing so thoroughly it becomes ugly and unrecognizable from its original whole form. But such is professional criticism.

Kyle Bragger was nice enough to answer some questions I asked him over email about his experience building Forrst. Forrst was a feedback community for designers and developers. It was a great, helpful place for a while. But it unraveled over time. He was honest about the struggles—which is simultaneously helpful and discouraging.

When you work alone on a side project, you have to make every decision that moves the project forward yourself. This is one of the most unexpectedly crushing parts of undertaking such an endeavor. Making decisions—even small, seemingly insignificant ones—takes a toll, like flexing a muscle. On one hand it makes you strong, but on the other—it wears you down over time. It's easy to fall into a vicious cycle of in-action and self-loathing—a black hole that becomes increasingly more difficult to pull yourself out of. I've lost plenty of projects in that place, and I imagine many others have too.

In modern secular theory, there are three things that underly all human motivation: will to power (Nietzsche), will to pleasure (Freud) and will to meaning (Frankl). In one way of thinking, every successful product needs to be able to draw a line back to one of these. For people using Instagram in a more promotional way (like I was with my photography account), the will to power dominates. Every new follower and like is a little more power in that sad kingdom.

Do people even really want real feedback? Don't we just want validation? To be assured that we are perfect just as we are? Wouldn't we rather hold on to pleasant dreams about putting in the work to get better, rather than taking each painful step forward?

This Skillshare class on documentary photography has 16,000 students. Only 78 of them submitted the class project, which was to take two photos. That's less than 1%.

What can I make for the crazy ones? The ones who aren't satisfied to go to work, watch Netflix and die. For the real creators—not the ones with the most followers. For those brave enough to go after meaning.

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